Georgian College students are just a few weeks away from starting to have fresh, locally grown food available right on the Barrie Campus.
Members of the student-led Growing Georgian gathered with sponsors, college officials and other students on Tuesday, May 24 to officially open an on-campus garden and celebrate the financial contributions of many local donors. The event celebrated the Growing Georgian garden and related initiatives in action – growing the path to a resilient and thriving community for students, staff, and the community.
Food grown in the garden will be distributed to students in need of perishable, nutritious foods through an on-campus food bank called the Food Locker. Students in Georgian’s culinary programs will process the vegetables, herbs and fruit.
“We are all stewards of the air, soil and water,” Nick Laferriere, Growing Georgian Garden Co-ordinator, told the crowd. “Not only will the garden provide food for students, but it will help make all of us more conscious of where our food comes from and how it’s grown.”
Laferriere and other members of Growing Georgian are working toward seeing their initiative institutionalized across Ontario at other postsecondary campuses, he said.
Also on hand at the opening were Georgian College students who volunteer for Growing Georgian and who will work to build a legacy of food security at Georgian College, as well as individuals and organizations who make the realization of this student-led social initiative possible. Growing Georgian assists students with sustainable and nutritious food alternatives, while promoting conscious consumption, ethical growing practices, and the resurgence of a local food economy.
Avery Konda, President of the Georgian College Students’ Association (GCSA) on the Barrie Campus, was, on behalf of Growing Georgian, awarded a grant last fall by the Chartwells Campus Projects fund to support a garden that would provide nutritious and sustainably grown food for the student community. Other recent accolades for Growing Georgian include the GCSA Extraordinary Achievement Award for on-campus initiatives that assist students in a specific capacity, and the Georgian College Co-Op of the Year designation, awarded to Konda for his conceptualization of the social initiative.
Growing Georgian brings together members from across the college including faculty, administration, food services, support staff, as well as the broader community.
Through collaboration with various partners over the past six months, Growing Georgian has been able to develop a co-op education position, currently filled by Laferriere. He oversees co-ordination of the garden and various projects to ensure a thriving food supply for the Food Locker program. This collaboration has also yielded plans to integrate the garden into academic and experiential learning opportunities for Georgian students.
Members of Georgian’s Indigenous Resource Centre conducted a smudging ceremony over the garden as part of the official grand opening. Garden sponsors include The Last Class, Home Depot, Barrie’s Garden Centre, the Barrie Farmers’ Market, Busch Systems, the Georgian College Students’ Association (GCSA), Georgian’s Hospitality, Tourism and Recreation academic department, the Indigenous Resource Centre, Meal Exchange, Chartwells and student volunteers, staff and faculty from all areas and programs of Georgian College.